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When Will The NBA Return? Here’s The Latest Proposed Schedule

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The sports world came to a screeching halt three months ago. As the coronavirus pandemic rapidly spread, a prominent player in the NBA tested positive for COVID-19.

After that player, Rudy Gobert, tested positive on March 11, the game between his Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder was postponed. Before the day ended, the NBA scrapped the remainder of the scheduled season with hopes of resuming it at a later date.

For weeks, uncertainty abounded as to whether the 2019-20 season would ever conclude — if the season would have a champion at all.

Now it appears we will, as the NBA will pick up play starting July 31 with an NBA Finals champion decided by October 12. As such, NBA betting will certainly become more active at legal sportsbooks across the country.

NBA plan to monitor, prevent coronavirus

The NBA’s board of governors approved the league’s proposal — by a whopping 29-1 margin — June 4 to resume the season in Orlando, Florida, with 22 of 30 teams expected to take part.

Adam Silver, commissioner of the NBA, and the league’s advisory/finance committee pitched the idea to teams to play at the Walt Disney World Resort, a plan that would include 13 Western Conference teams and nine Eastern Conference franchises.

Per Adrian Wojnarowski, Senior NBA Insider for ESPN, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association remain in negotiations regarding safety protocols and competition.

That said, players and coaches will need to maintain proper social distancing when out golfing or eating at restaurants. Beyond that, the NBA intends to conduct uniform, daily testing on campus at Disney. Any positive tests would result in those individuals to be quarantined and treated while the league continues to test other members of that team as play continues.

Disney employees must maintain similar protocols and will not be allowed in players’ rooms while hallways will be monitored to avoid crowding.

How the NBA will look in Orlando

Invited teams will start training at team sites in July before moving on to full training camps in Orlando. As noted, the format includes 13 teams from the Western Conference and nine from the Eastern Conference.

The list includes the top eight teams in each conference as well as any team that was within six games of eighth place when the season paused:

Western Conference Eastern Conference
Los Angeles Lakers Milwaukee Bucks
Los Angeles Clippers Toronto Raptors
Denver Nuggets Boston Celtics
Utah Jazz Miami Heat
Oklahoma City Thunder Indiana Pacers
Houston Rockets Philadelphia 76ers
Dallas Mavericks Brooklyn Nets
Memphis Grizzlies Orlando Magic
Portland Trail Blazers Washington Wizards
New Orleans Pelicans
Sacramento Kings
San Antonio Spurs
Phoenix Suns

As Wojnarowski reported ahead of the NBA announcement, teams will compete in eight regular-season games that will lead up to a play-in tournament featuring the eighth- and ninth-seeded teams in each conference. Such a scenario would only occur if the ninth seed finishes the regular season within four games of the eighth seed.

Should this situation arise, the No. 8 team would only need to win once to advance, while the No. 9 would need back-to-back victories.

NBA betting odds

As players get ready to report to training camps in anticipation of the resumed season, legal sportsbooks across the country have reposted futures odds for this year’s champ.

Certainly, not all lines will be the same, but the trend at the top will all look similar in terms of favorites:

  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • Los Angeles Clippers

As for the full field of 22 teams, here are the odds as of June 5 courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook and DraftKings Sportsbook.

FanDuel Sportsbook DraftKings Sportsbook
Milwaukee Bucks +240 Los Angeles Lakers +250
Los Angeles Lakers +270 Milwaukee Bucks +250
Los Angeles Clippers +340 Los Angeles Clippers +333
Houston Rockets +1200 Houston Rockets +1300
Boston Celtics +2000 Boston Celtics +2200
Toronto Raptors +2400 Toronto Raptors +2200
Denver Nuggets +2500 Denver Nuggets +3000
Miami Heat +2700 Miami Heat +3000
Philadelphia 76ers +2700 Philadelphia 76ers +3000
Utah Jazz +2900 Utah Jazz +3300
Dallas Mavericks +3600 Dallas Mavericks +4000
Brooklyn Nets +6000 Brooklyn Nets +8000
Indiana Pacers +10000 Indiana Pacers +10000
Oklahoma City Thunder +10000 Oklahoma City Thunder +10000
New Orleans Pelicans +12000 New Orleans Pelicans +12500
Memphis Grizzlies +21000 Portland Trail Blazers +17000
Portland Trail Blazers +21000 Memphis Grizzlies +25000
San Antonio Spurs +21000 San Antonio Spurs +25000
Orlando Magic +25000 Orlando Magic +30000
Phoenix Suns +25000 Phoenix Suns +30000
Sacramento Kings +25000 Sacramento Kings +30000
Washington Wizards +25000 Washington Wizards +30000

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When Will NHL Return? There’s A New Plan In Place

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The Chicago Blackhawks are returning to the playoffs! Well, them and 24 other teams when the National Hockey League (NHL) resumes play. Much like other major sports leagues, the NHL has been on hiatus since March but a return is possible by late July.

Commissioner Gary Bettman recently announced the ‘Return To Play Plan’ which will abandon the rest of the regular season and transition directly into the playoffs. This is great news for fans who have been patiently waiting for hockey’s return and those looking for NHL betting.

This is also exciting for teams like the Arizona Coyotes (74pts), Blackhawks (72pts), and Montreal Canadiens (71pts), who narrowly squeaked in.

Although Bettman and the NHL have agreed on what hockey would look like when it returns, the NHL Players Association (NHLPA) has not formally approved the return nor has an exact date been set.

The NHL’s eventual return

During a live broadcast on May 26, Bettman laid out a few plan specifics and stressed the importance of precautions and safety measures.

“The health and safety of our coaches, players, and essential support staff — are paramount,” Bettman said. “However, we will not move forward with the plan — until we are approved to do so.”

Cornerstones of the Return To Play plan include:

  • Fans, players want NHL to resume
  • Guidance from civil and medical authorities
  • NHL-NHLPA partnership and cooperation
  • Health and safety are priorities

A phased rollout for NHL

For awards purposes, the 2019-20 NHL regular season has been complete. Additionally, the plan includes several complex details on the NHL draft order that are still being worked out.

But when it comes to post-season play, Bettman was very specific. Each conference (East and West) will be assigned a hub city, with “secure hotels, arena, practice facilities, and in-market transportation” to be announced at a later date.

Other restrictions include:

  • Teams will be limited to 50 personnel
  • All will undergo a comprehensive system of testing

Phase 2, which will begin in early June, allows teams to return to practice facilities for on and off ice training. Phase 3 which will be no earlier than July 1, will allow for formal training camps to start.

The final phase is when teams report to designated hub cities to resume play. Again, timing and locations are still TBD.

“This is all determined by developing circumstances, things are evolving rapidly,” Bettman said.  “We want this choice to be made with the best available information at the time.”

Bettman said should everything go as planned, the NHL will play early summer and into the fall.

Potential site locations for NHL games

As announced, the NHL playoffs will take place at two hub cities. Bettman and the NHL did provide a list of candidates which include major metropolitan areas like Chicago and Los Angeles. One interesting city, at least from a sports betting perspective is Las Vegas.

Considerations include:

  • Chicago, IL
  • Columbus, OH
  • Dallas, TX
  • Edmonton, AB
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
  • Pittsburg, PA
  • Toronto, ON
  • Vancouver, BC

NHL post-season format

As stated, the postseason will look entity different this year with 24 teams — 12 in the East and 12 in the West — having the chance to hoist the Stanly Cup trophy.

The top 4 teams in each conference will play a round-robin (mini-tournament) to determine seeding (1-4).

Top teams in the Eastern Conference:

  • #1 Boston Bruins
  • #2 Tampa Bay Lightning
  • #3 Washington Capitals
  • #4 Philadelphia Flyers

Top teams in the Western Conference:

  • #1 St. Louis Blues
  • #2 Colorado Avalanche
  • #3 Vegas Golden Knights
  • #4 Dallas Stars

While the top four teams in each conference are busy deciding seeding, the remaining 16 teams (eight in each conference) will battle it out in a qualifying round. This will be a best-of-5 to advance to the next round of the playoffs.

It’s at this stage where things get tricky. The NHL has yet to determine if the next round, following the round-robin games and the qualifying round, will be a best-of-5 or a best-of-7.

The one concrete fact is, the Stanly Cup Finals will be a best-of-7.

NHL betting implications

While hockey is not the most popular sport to bet on, it’s a bit more lucrative than Russian table tennis. According to research from the American Gaming Association released in 2018, the NHL was projected to receive $65 million in additional revenue from gambling. This was on top of the $151 million generated from fan engagement, bringing the league’s estimated total revenue to $216 million.

The four-month hiatus has netted little to no money from gambling, with most sportsbooks only offering futures bets.

But now, even though exact dates have not been released, major operators like DraftKings, FanDuel, and William Hill are beginning to release odds for the first set of games.

Currently, the hometown Chicago Blackhawks are +135 against the Edmonton Oilers (-167) over at DraftKings Sportsbook.

FanDuel Sportsbook and William Hill have yet to release individual game odds but team futures are still available.

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When Are Major Horse Racing Events Scheduled To Return?

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If it’s not already trademarked, Alex Waldrop should consider it.

“We were the original sports bet. We’re still here. And we’re still going strong.”

And with COVID-19 keeping sports contested by humans off their fields of play, the chief executive officer of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association earnestly hopes one of the United States’ original sporting passions can extend a moment it has inherited since major professional and college sports went dormant in mid-March.

While new-age virtual games such as eSports and iRacing have also had their moment, horse racing — for one of the first times since its slow decline in popularity began decades ago — has so far had the bandwidth to satisfy a national appetite for betting markets.

Horses can’t contract the novel coronavirus that has led to more than 100,000 deaths in the US. Expansive track facilities and a relatively small amount of humans needed to conduct the sport has allowed track operators to hold meets that were generally an online wagering enterprise and devoid of spectators anyway.

So while Russian table tennis has found a novelty following and a virtual NFL Draft flared and faded, the national pari-mutuel industry has so far surged. While national handle figures for May are not yet available, April revealed that horse racing had made some hay.

According to Waldrop, pari-mutuel wagering handle was down 24 percent from April 2020 as compared to April 2019, “but that is remarkable,” he told PlayUSA, “because we had a 72-percent decline in the number of races and race days. That tells you that we had much less racing product out there for horse players to bet on, but they were betting a lot more.”

The average wagering per race day, he added, was up 176 percent to $7.5 million. That was with a small collection of tracks including Gulfstream Park, Fonner Park, Oaklawn Park, Tampa Bay Downs and Will Rogers Downs. Now larger venues are about to open with social-distancing restrictions and governmental sign-off.

“Larger tracks, like Churchill Downs, Santa Anita has been back and operating for the last week or so, Maryland starts this weekend, [New York] starts sometime in early June,” Waldrop added, “so the major race tracks are about to crank back up and we should see an increase in the number of races and race days, which hopefully will translate into recovery, putting handle back to where it was or above last year.”

Attempting to maintain this momentum, the Breeders’ Cup and Jockey Club on Thursday launched a national campaign specifically targeted at sports bettors that are bolstering its coffers.

And at Monmouth Park in New Jersey, where a horseman’s lawsuit was the first maneuver in the campaign that eventually made legal sports betting a national possibility, track operator Dennis Drazin is about to unveil the device he has long seen as the bridge from sports bettors to horse players: fixed odds wagering.

Even with the Kentucky Derby rescheduled for just the second time since 1875 and its signature Triple Crown scrambled and delayed, horse racing is generating promise.

When will horse racing hubs open nationally?

California
Del Mar: July 18-Sept. 7
Santa Anita: underway through June 21

Florida
Gulfstream: underway through Sept. 27
Tampa Bay: underway through May 30, then Monday and Wednesday in June after an extension was granted by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Kentucky
Churchill Downs: underway through June 27; Sept. 1-5
Ellis Park: June 28-Aug. 30
Keeneland: July 8-12

New Jersey
Monmouth: July 3-Sept. 27 (not yet approved by state of New Jersey)

New York
Belmont Park: June 3-July 20.
Saratoga (NY) – July 16-Sept. 7

When are the Triple Crown races in 2020?

Belmont Stakes
June 20 (moved back two weeks and from final leg to opener)

*Note: The longest race of most thoroughbreds’ careers will not be on the resume for this crop of 3-year-olds. To alleviate injury concerns in a disjointed approach to the Triple Crown, stewards have reduced the race distance from 1 ½ half miles to 1 ⅛ miles. The Belmont goes from the longest to shortest Triple Crown race for this season. The Kentucky Derby is 1 ¼ miles and the Preakness 1 3/16. … The purse will drop from $1.5 million to $1 million because no spectators will be allowed.

Kentucky Derby
Sept. 5 (originally May 2)

Preakness Stakes
Oct. 3 (originally May 16, second leg)

Horse industry launches national campaign to retain sports bettors

The “Still. Running. Strong.” campaign, launched in conjunction with the NTRA, TVG network, which is an affiliate of the FanDuel Group; the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association will attempt to leverage “broadcast, digital, and social media elements,” according to a release to exploit heightened exposure even with the Triple Crown delayed more than six weeks. NBC Sports and FOX Sports have already filled programming gaps with live racing, providing a natural entry point for the effort.

A focal point of the digital and social media campaign is legal online horse betting, centered around educational materials at a new America’s Best Racing website.

“We’re going to be turning sports bettors, because we know there are lots of sports bettors out there that are desperate for content. They’re not able to bet right now. There’s not enough sports,” Waldrop said. “But horse racing is still going strong. And we have our ADW platforms, those online platforms which allow people to watch and wager, do it every.

“Certainly, now that opportunity is at a premium because many sports bettors don’t have that opportunity. It raises our profile. That’s the purpose of the awareness campaign. It’s the oldest form of sports betting.”

Horse racing getting a leg up as human sports shelter in place

Johnny Avello would have preferred that horse racing’s renaissance as a betting market was spurred by something besides COVID-19.

As head of sportsbook for DraftKings, he fully comprehends the impact of the pandemic shutting down the sports that would normally have comprised the vast bulk of his sports betting and daily fantasy sports company’s offerings. But even as a Las Vegas transplant, the product of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., longs for his annual pilgrimage to the Saratoga summer meet, and with MLB, the NBA and NHL still in the planning stages of a return to play, Avello hopes horse racing can capitalize on the opportunity. Because so far, he told PlayUSA, that’s worked well for the industry at large at a crucial time.

“Horse racing was getting dinged pretty good there with all those deaths of horses at San Anita, and I was really frightened for the game, especially in California,” he said. “California racing has been such a great product for many years. You’ve got Del Mar and then you got Santa Anita and then they go to the fairs during the summer.

“But I was concerned and I thought that this could be a good thing for horse racing because it could isolate them and as long as things went well, which they pretty much have, with the isolation, people could just concentrate on betting on horse racing because it was one of the few games that they were very familiar with.

Crucial, Avello said, is that the Belmont Stakes, traditionally the final leg of the Triple Crown, but now the opener, has the weekend of June 20 relatively to itself in terms of other major events.

“Talk about isolation. There won’t be a lot of sports going on, most likely,” Avello said. “So, I think that race is going to get a lot of exposure.

“And as we move forward here, you’ll have the Belmont, you’ll get a couple other races in between. You’ll have the Travers, which is normally in the end of August, probably going to shift the dates there and that’s probably going to be a prep for the Kentucky Derby. Hopefully, some younger people have gotten involved lately. Let’s hope that momentum continues. I can’t say it will for sure, but I’m hopeful that it will.”

Another reason horse racing and betting are still thriving

Though the disruption of the one annual period when horse racing becomes at least a passing mainstream interest represented a loss for the sport, Waldrop said, horse racing still holds an industry-wide advantage on professional team sports. Though its classics have been impacted, it’s daily business has been able to restart quicker despite local shutdowns.

“It’s never good to lose that traditional season because that’s the one time of year when we were top of mind. The ability to come back now, later, is great,” Waldrop said. “For the Belmont to be on a day when it’s the only game in town, literally, that’s also great. We’ll see how that feels shapes up.

“Our awareness campaign is really focused mostly on sports bettors than the casual fans who generally learn about us on national television. But it’s all about converting people from casual fans to fans who’ve watch and wager.”

DraftKings has a license to offer pari-mutuel wagering through its association with the Scarlet Pearl sportsbook in D’Iberville, Miss., but couldn’t capitalize on the rush because the state hasn’t legalized mobile and online wagering.

A report released last week by Infiniti Research claims that the “horse and sports betting market is poised to grow” by $139.52 billion, progressing by a nine-percent compound annual growth rate through 2024.

The first day of the delayed Churchill Downs, contested without fans posted a 183% increase in handle as compared to the same night, one replete with customary Louisville opening festivities, in 2019, according to WDRB television.

The home venue of the Kentucky Derby wasn’t the only park awash in interest. The handful of tracks open and running without fans – Gulfstream Park, Fonner Park, Oaklawn Park, Tampa Bay Downs and Will Rogers Downs exploded by 129 percent through the first few weeks of the meet.

At Santa Anita, the total handle for nine races on May 15 was $11,207,076, a 61-percent increase from an eight-race card on the same date a year ago.

While an increase of interest is a boon for the tracks, it has hardly been a financial windfall, with tracks being hit with the type of financial loss the major pro leagues could face with fanless games. The reason: tracks receive only a percentage the handle their tracks generate via simulcast and away from their betting windows.

The boom is also being experienced internationally with a Swedish government minister noting that “horse betting has exploded” during COVID-19 while debating regulations on the online casino industry there.

Horse racing resurgence amid COVID-19 shutdowns

Various sports and events have experienced an increase in exposure during the novel coronavirus pandemic. There was the wildly popular virtual NFL Draft, eNASCAR and eSports.

That horse racing — a vestige of America’s 17th-century agrarian past — and eSports, a digital vanguard of our presumed gaming future, were key among them created a fascinating spectrum for sports’ ecosystem. Both became focuses because they happened to be left standing for differing reasons when college and professional team sports were forced to go dormant. eSports can be conducted in relative confinement even though large arenas are being erected to present the spectacle of events like the Fortnite World Cup, pre-pandemic. Horse racing, which has fallen into a sad state of decline, where the Kentucky Derby is generally the only event to resonate with the general public, didn’t have many fans to turn away.

A collection of tracks remained open during the shutdown, notable among them Oaklawn Park, which hosted an expanded Arkansas Derby on the day the Kentucky Derby was originally scheduled.

In a perverse sign that business seemed to be as usual, the Bob Baffert-trained Charlatan, a runoff winner in one of the two races that comprised the event is said to have tested positive for illegal substances.

Can fixed-odds wagering bridge gap from sportsbooks to horse tracks?

Drazin knows their frustration. He’s absorbed it through their emails and voice messages: Dabbling horse player bets a filly at Monmouth Park at long odds. Filly wins. Dabbling horse player is surprised to find a pedestrian payout waiting at the window. Late money had come in on her, the odds plummeted. The payout decreased.

That quickly, a winning bettor and potential repeat customer had a bad experience.

Standing at the nexus of sports betting and pari-mutuel wagering, Drazin has long advocated for fixed-odds wagering as a means to appease those dabblers and perhaps retain sports bettors disinclined to accept that a lot of late money generated online and as smart as theirs ruined a payday. And their fun.

“They bet the horse at 7-1, then it’s 5-1, at the gate and 8-to-5 and by the time it breaks out of the gate it’s 3-to-5,” Drazin said. “They say ‘What happened?’ And that’s not because there’s anything improper going on, it’s just all these wagers that are made by computer and otherwise the last minute being added to the pools. But I don’t think it gives the public a good feeling. I think the public would feel better if they’d bet at 2-to-1 and they got 2-to-1. So I think that will help bring some people back to racing.”

So in February, the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and Darby Development LLC, which operates Monmouth Park, entered a 10-year deal with BetMakers Technology Group to facilitate fixed-odds wagering for that track. The Australian company will initially offer just win, place and show bets.

Fixed-odds betting has been credited with stimulating the horse racing industry in Australia and is expanding worldwide, but has been resisted in the United States because of the differences in takeout structure between sportsbooks and pari-mutuel pools. Tracks often hold up to 20 percent of handle to feed pools, while sportsbooks take less. Proponents of fixed-odds horse wagering assert that players will make up for the shortfalls with their increase volume of wagering.

“These are issues that happen not just on a state by state basis, but really on an operator-by-operator basis. People are moving cautiously in the sports betting arena,” Waldrop said. “It’s too early to tell whether the fixed-odds wagering will gain traction.

“It should, it absolutely should. It provides some certainty to players, the kind of certainty they’re used to getting in the sports betting arena. But I can’t predict how quickly that happens. The revenue factors that have to be considered. The risk factor is not an element for parimutuel because you’re basically commission-based wagering and how to convert a sports wager into DraftKings offered fixed-odds betting on the Haskell Invitational card at Monmouth Park last year.

Any vendor with a skin in a New Jersey sportsbook, Drazin said, is eligible to contract for fixed-odds horse wagering. Waldrop said that TVG, whose parent company is Flutter Entertainment, is also “looking at” fixed-odds wagering.

Horse racing provides boost to sports betting, needs a residual effect

It was once ironic that the campaign that ultimately led to the possibility of legal sports betting in the entirety of the United States began with a horsemen’s association lawsuit in New Jersey. All those new consumers would have even less reason to turn their attention to an afternoon program at Monmouth Park. But now there’s a symmetry.

The horse racing industry collectively hoped after the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018 that newly cultivated sports bettors would turn the occasion dollar toward the flagging pari-mutuels industry, and for now, they have. While the industry faces the same sustainability questions as eSports and Russian table tennis markets once the “big four” return, the present is heartening.

“We love it,” Waldrop said. “We love it.”

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How Can US Sports Return? Analyzing How To Get Back In The Safe Zone

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The job was always going to require immunologists. Developing a plan to safely relaunch college and professional sports is requiring foot doctors, too. Or at least one.

Dr. Glenn Copeland is walking the immunologists, players and coaches toward what sports may look like during a post-COVID-19 pandemic.

It will not be a quick fix, Copeland told PlayUSA, but it’s doable. He is comforting and yet sobering with his assessment.

He even jokes when asked which sports will be easiest to return: “The one sport we could have back today is fencing. You get a mask, you get gloves and if somebody comes within 6 feet, you get to stab them.”  

Two decades spent in clubhouses and training rooms as a team podiatrist for the Toronto Blue Jays has instilled knowledge of how crucial support systems must operate. As a consultant for QuestCap, Copeland serves as a liaison between those developing and administering tests for the novel coronavirus and those trying to keep them from becoming patients.

Tough task, tough choices 

Reopening the sports industry (and thus, many more options for US sports betting) is as complicated as throttling up the global economy.  

Athletes have no luxury of social distance. Neither do the coaches and trainers who form the ancillary village around their every activity. Players sweat, expel vapor with every gulp for air, touch teammates, opponents, weights and equipment. There is no amount of janitors and bottles of disinfectant to squelch every potential contamination point.  

These microscopic interactions have mammoth implications for the way sports are contested, consumed and increasingly bet upon. 

A recent Major League Baseball proposal for conducting a truncated season outlined the billions of dollars in TV revenue at stake from networks broadcasting games. Meanwhile, data from Australia reveals that fans are less interested in watching televised games devoid of fans.

Such is the playing field with an unseen and highly contagious novel coronavirus responsible for more than 300,000 worldwide deaths lurking potentially everywhere.

Copeland sees the spaces surrounding these athletes and the pathway to commencing sports again as a matter of “zones.” 

Under QuestCap’s guidance, navigating each zone would ensure avoiding the transmission of the virus to a competitor, the support staff or a fan.

How did an investment firm become a COVID-19 warrior?

Copeland describes QuestCap as a “humanitarian company formed to address climate issues” that now trades in expertise and the IgG and IgM antibody tests. It secured the right to market with a South Korean supplier in April. 

These rapid tests are the means to establish viral moats around athletes and perhaps convince leagues and players that it is safe to resume play.

Though he won’t divulge the teams, Copeland told PlayUSA that QuestCap has consulted with around 20 MLB, NBANFL and NHL teams. Just two of those are NFL franchises and “three to four” have retained the company’s services.

Even with the Bundesliga, NASCAR and UFC back to live, albeit fanless, competition, there is much work to do. 

For TV networks, leagues, sportsbooks, fans, or bettors who simply want games back, a relapse would be demoralizing and costly.

UFC 249, which used its anticontamination protocols, proceeded last week even after a fighter tested positive for the virus.

“I think it was really positive, given that one of the fighters tested positive for coronavirus and that he was able to be self-quarantined. It just showed that the system worked and that the sport was able to move forward to do so in a healthy competitive way. I think that was maybe a good barometer for things moving forward,” said the Circa Sports sportsbook operations manager Jeff Benson

“You certainly don’t want to rush things back and get hit with a second wave of things, where you do close and it may be (that it) ultimately hurts us more so than the first time.”

How QuestCap aims restart of sports 

Copeland understands that games are not contested merely on fields and courts. They’re won or lost in weight rooms, training rooms and practice courts. 

Mitigating COVID-19 at the root is left to another QuestCap partner, Stanford Medicine neurologist and immunologist Dr. Lawrence Steinman.

In concert, and with their available supply of rapid and long-term antibody tests, they’ve established a system to insulate participants inside two zones of COVID-free security.

The so-called “outer zone,” Copeland said, “is the world. That’s where everybody exists.”

The middle zone, he said, “is usually taking place just inside or just outside the front door of the stadium where players and anybody coming to try and get into the inner zone has to go through.”

The inner zone, as much as testing can assure it, would be a pristine workspace.

“That middle zone is where the temperatures are taken, symptoms are done and the antibody testing is done and nobody gets into the inner zone until they’ve gone through the middle zone, the testing, the data collection, the review of the data, the temperature, the symptoms,” Copeland said. 

“Once they pass in that middle zone, then they’ve got a green light they’re then given if you will, a passport for 24 hours to go into the inner zone.

“Nobody gets into that inner zone until we’re convinced that by doing the testing the way we’re doing it, by doing the evaluation the way we’re doing it and it’s based on the data that we’ve got, that they’re COVID-free.”

Life inside the inner zone should provide, in theory, security and the comfort to work and play as normal. Colomba’s Categoria Primera became the first professional soccer league to begin using the system several weeks ago. 

They prepare to start training in June and resume games in August, according to that country’s Ministry of Work and Sport. The Bundesliga employed its stringent methodology to ensure the welfare of teams and officials before a fan-free slate of games was held.

While there is security inside the zones, there is no normalcy of the typical fraternal setting of a professional sports facility. And there is the understanding that an entire player’s life cannot be conducted there.

“Once in that inner zone, that, in essence, would be what we would consider to be, as best as we can, the COVID-free zone. And so they can play in that zone,” Copeland said. 

“They can work out in that zone. And, by working with the teams and starting slowly, where you have two players in the weight room, you’ll have two players in the trainers’ room, two players in the lunchroom.

“You might have two players at each end of the field. Bring them back the next day, do the exact same thing every single day because they leave the stadium, they go out to the other zone every evening. Then they come back the next day.

So, it’s day-to-day. Now, down the road, a month or two, when we start to see that we’re getting really good at this, that the data is showing that we don’t need to do the testing every day, we can punch it up to every two days. Maybe it’s every three days for testing, but every day for fevers and symptoms. So, this will be a moving target. It will be an evolving procedure and protocol,” said Copeland.

US pro teams likely to actively seek practice resumption in June

Movement in the US, Copeland said, could feasibly begin June 1 with the proper safeguards. The date of July 4 has been anecdotally cited as a potential return date for several US sports, including the MLB.

“I would guess — just knowing what I know on a day-to-day basis — that you’ll have a number of facilities up and running no later than the first of June for sure. I would say that you’ll probably have a few of them open probably by the Memorial Day weekend,” Copeland said.

“But again, there (are) so many things that come into play. It’s not just the league saying, ‘OK, you guys can open,’ because it’s the state and the city who will say, ‘Yeah, well, the league can say you can open, but we’re saying no.’ And, so we’ve run into that with three teams already in the NBA who want to get going. I must say too, that all the teams, all the teams are cooperating a hundred percent with all the authorities … There’s been no whining.”

Though proposals over a potential resumption have further exposed existing rifts between MLB and its players’ association, Copeland said QuestCap’s relationship with labor and management have been “unbelievably cooperative” in all pro leagues.

“There’s a huge cooperation everywhere. But what there is is this unknown,” he said. “And, until somebody does it, and until we can prove it can be done safely, there’s still that cautious, very cautious optimism.

“That’s where we’re at right now. We’re on the edge. I understand that there’s one or two NBA teams moving very, very slowly. One of the teams is doing the testing and the program, but you’re talking one-to-one, like two guys in the weight room having everything wiped down. In between, a player touching any machine gets wiped down immediately. Even though there’s that feeling that it’s as COVID-free as possible, we’re not taking any chances at all. So, it’s as I like to refer to it, it’s baby steps.”

Single-venue option not perfect, but may be a starting point

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is doubtful that sports will be played in his city this year. Also, the spikes of cases are likely to impact large urban areas as mitigation protocols are relaxed. As a result, the leagues are likely to require alternate venue options.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has proclaimed his state open for professional sports business without fans.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis deemed professional sports as “essential” entities, shilled for NASCAR and the PGA to come on down and finally landed a series of UFC bouts in Jacksonville.

Copeland believes games will ultimately resume this way, presenting more variables. The shutdown of the NHL quickly followed that of the NBA in mid-March in part because those league’s teams shared numerous venues and locker rooms. That’s a lot of players to test and safeguard.

Then, there’s the quality of life.

“One of the things I just ran into, you have a situation where if you do one venue and you have 50 teams in one venue,” Copeland said. “That means the inner zone is from the hotel to the ballpark and back to the hotel.

“That means there’s no room for spouses. There’s no room for kids; there’s no room for anybody else. So that means that the player is going to be without their family for three months, four months, six months, whatever it’s going to be. And are they prepared to do that? And, truly, how safe is that? How do you lock the front doors? How do you keep fans away from the front door? How do you keep people away?

So, you have to look at the realistic versus the practical approach versus a perfect-world approach. And that’s really been an issue for all of us. Most of the people we’ve spoken to recognize twofold: one, players — whether it’s girls or guys — have to take some major responsibility for self-regulation. You can’t go to a bar, you can’t go to a restaurant, you can’t do a number of things, you can’t have friends and widespread family around you.”

Copeland believes that leagues will be able to expand their venue choices once institutional knowledge is established from the opening months of play.

But what about sports fans and spectators?

Copeland fervently asserts that the safety and well-being of fans are as important as athletes and team personnel. Concocting a way to assure safety without a vaccine, herd immunity or treatment for COVID-19 will likely convert fandom to a remote event for the near future.

“The day of the fans in the stadium, for now, it’s not going to happen, in our opinion,” he said. “How do you control 20, 30, 50, 75,000 people coming in and saying that you can almost assure everybody that in that type of setting, that you’re not going to have anybody with COVID? I don’t see those days for this season, anyways. And rightfully so.

“It’s not a matter of freedom. It’s a matter of not being able to clearly protect the fans. Fans, for the most part, don’t get within 6 feet of the players, so that’s not the big issue. You have to protect the fans, and there’s no way I want them going to a stadium with 50,000 people where you might have five people unknowingly infected.

“The high-fiving, the hugging, lining up for beer, people hugging each other, they’re not doing anything that they wouldn’t normally do and it’s not trying to be malicious. But they hug the wrong guy or girl; guess what? The transmission is easy.”

But the communal experience of attending games, the infusion of the type of energy that was notably absent on Saturday with only players and coaches’ calls echoing off empty grandstands in Germany. It will not be lost forever, Copeland believes. Fans will first be allowed to return, and after a period of apprehension sure to be endured by the airline and movie theater industries, patrons will return.

“I think fans are going to get used to you watching at home,” he said, “But I really do think that if everybody’s a little bit patient and accepts that at least you can turn the TV on and not watch the 1997 World Series and watch live sports, take that first step.

“But until we get the vaccine, I don’t think we’re going to be real comfortable with a whole bunch of people in a given room.”

Players, owners feeling their way in this unknown landscape

Copeland conceded that the coterie of ownership and league commissioners and player unions are “constantly going around in circles” about their responses is understandable.

It is new territory. Lengthy conversations and consultations seem to yield a consensus or plan, but upon consultation, more questions.

“They just don’t know what to do. We’ll talk about the outer circle, inner circle, and then, they go back to the owner and the GM or whoever, and then they’ll say, ‘Well, can we extend the outer circle?’ or ‘Do we have to do testing every day?’” Copeland related.

“So, everybody’s trying to figure out how you do it. And then the player’s association will call and say, ‘So, OK, that sounds like a great idea. Should we do this? Could we do that?’ And there’s just so many variables of that until you do it and say this is what’s worked and this is what’s worked for 20 teams or eight teams or this is what worked for the NHL or NBA.”

What sports are more or less conducive to quick and safe return?

The Bundesliga returned on Saturday. NASCAR returned after a 10-week layoff to a Darlington Raceway devoid of spectators on Sunday. UFC has already returned, as has rodeo. Still, the leaders of the “big four” North American sports continue to wade through everything from health guidelines to labor acrimony in finding their path.

“It’s hopeful that we will have some Major League Baseball this summer. We are making plans about playing in empty stadiums,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told CNN on Thursday as tensions rise with players.

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell drew the ire of fans last week when he said in a Twitch stream that he would not accept a pay cut this season because “the risk is through the roof.”

Added the 2018 Cy Young Award winner: “Bro, I’m risking my life. What do you mean it should not be a thing? It should 100% be a thing. If I’m gonna play, I should be getting the money I signed to be getting paid.”

It was never going to be easy. In the case of MLB, which already faced brewing labor unrest, the economics have gotten messy. MLB projects a $4 billion loss if it doesn’t play a season. But the medical aspect of the return must be a source of consensus. In his interactions, it has been so far, Copeland said.

But some sports will inherently be more difficult to usher back safely.

Contact sports like football, hockey, boxing and basketball will be expectedly nettlesome. According to the New York Times, UFC reportedly shirked safety protocols even after fighter Ronaldo Souza and two handlers were quarantined after testing positive before UFC 249. Baseball is less contact-laden, though the home plate is hardly a model of social distancing.

“Outside of fencing, we don’t have the perfect sport, but tennis and golf to me, NASCAR, I’m pretty comfortable,” Copeland said. “Again, if a guy’s crew and the people in each crew are minimized and tested, I think you can bring up a fair bit of safety to that.

“I’m pretty comfortable with the inner circle for swimming, golf, tennis. It’s when you get into the contact sports or areas that you’re going to have, even in baseball, when you’re in the field is pretty much social distancing. But not at the plate. You have the umpire, you have the catcher, and you have a batter and they are within 4 or 5 feet of each other.

“So, is it a perfectly safe sport? No. But again, if everybody’s tested properly and you can get into the inner circle and have passed your test, we think that you have a very strong chance that COVID is not going to rear its ugly head.”

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Want To Bet On MLB? July Return Could Be A Possibility

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At this very moment, if anyone says they know definitively when Major League Baseball is returning, take it with a grain of salt. The truth is, while there have been many dates floating around all of it remains speculation.

What is certain, and what we do know, is there are plans floating around to bring baseball back. The necessary people are having conversations, developing policies and standards, and ball clubs are preparing for an eventual return.

But the exact date on when the season begins and when sports betting can resume is still a mystery.

Early July is possible

The MLB Players Union received a proposal from Commissioner Rob Manfred, approved by team owners, that would have baseball back by early July.

That lengthy proposal would reshape the MLB landscape with new rules, new financial stipulations, and a list of safety and health standards. The 2020 MLB season depends on both sides overcoming these financial roadblocks which are the current topic of discussion.

Portions of the plan include:

  • A shortened 82 game season
  • 14 team playoff
  • June spring training
  • Universal DH (designated hitter)
  • Geographical schedules for teams

Safety protocols will change baseball

A 67-page draft of the MLB’s health-and-safety manual, obtained by ESPN, outlines new procedures that will change baseball during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new rules were written by MLB senior vice presidents Patrick Houlihan, Bryan Seeley, and Chris Young and VP Jon Coyles.

While portions of the document are missing, there are a few details to share, including:

  • No high-fives, fist bumps, or hugging
  • No spitting, tobacco or chewing sunflower seeds
  • First-and-third base coaches can not approach baserunners or umpires
  • Players should not socialize with opponents
  • Processing more than 10,000 COVID-19 tests per week

Teams have been asked to respond to the proposal by Friday, May 22 with input.

Should a proposal of this magnitude be implemented it would be a drastic change from the baseball played pre-pandemic. Discussions continue but there is only 11-days left before the proposed start of spring training 2.0.

Major League Baseball betting for now

While betting on actual games has yet to resume, at least here in the US, several sportsbooks are still offering MLB bets in the form of futures wagers.

FanDuel Sportsbook and Draftkings Sportsbook to name a few, have some betting options available including:

  • 2020-21 World Series Champion
  • South Korean Baseball
  • Taiwan Baseball

All sportsbooks around the US have curated a list of betting options during the pandemic, all with their own odds in place, so browse accordingly.

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Big NASCAR Betting Anticipated As Races Return May 17

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NASCAR is set to become one of the first major sports to return after a two-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic. Action is set to begin on May 17, with three races at Darlington Raceway followed by two weeks of scheduled events.

As with the return of any major sports, the main goal is to keep competitors safe. In order to do this, league officials have changed up a few things that fans might not notice. However, races will still look the same.

NASCAR schedule for May

Sports bettors eager to place some bets on NASCAR races will be happy to know there will be seven races over an 11-day span beginning Sunday, May 17.

Here is what the schedule looks like thus far.

  • May 17 — Darlington Raceway — Cup Series
  • May 19 — Darlington Raceway — Xfinity Series
  • May 20 — Darlington Raceway — Cup Series
  • May 24 — Charlotte Motor Speedway — Cup Series
  • May 25 — Charlotte Motor Speedway — Xfinity Series
  • May 26 — Charlotte Motor Speedway — Trucks Series
  • May 27 — Charlotte Motor Speedway — Cup Series

New procedures for NASCAR

According to ESPN, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and state health officials, held conversations with NASCAR to determine the best and safest way racing could return.

One of the most noticeable differences with all May races will be the absence of fans.

Some, but not all, of the new procedures include:

  • Teams will be limited to 16 total members, including the driver.
  • Only licensed NASCAR team members will be permitted onto the racetrack and will be required to wear a cloth face mask at all times.
  • Garage work areas will be spread out to comply with social distancing requirements.
  • Pit crew members will use face screens in addition to normal gear.
  • There will be random temperature checks of everyone working in the garage area.
  • Anyone determined to be a potential virus threat will be required to leave and be replaced with another crew member.

NASCAR’s vice president of racing operations John Bobo said drivers and crew members will not receive COVID-19 tests because they are not widely available to the public.

Through a series of tweets, several high profile drivers like Alex Bowman, Jimmie Johnson, and Brad Keselowski have expressed their excitement for NASCAR’s return.

League officials have said there is a tentative schedule in place for June but anything past the May 17 return is subject to change.



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WSOP Officially Postponed Due To Pandemic, But May Return This Fall

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The 51st running World Series Of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas has been postponed. The move comes after weeks of rumors and speculation that the largest poker tournament of the year will be delayed or canceled.

Caesars Entertainment, operators of WSOP, says the postponement of the tournament is due to the public health emergency involving COVID-19 which has closed all US casinos. The company says that they would like to have the WSOP return later this year if and when the coronavirus pandemic concerns have lessened.

World Series of Poker is postponed — not canceled

WSOP 2020 has not been canceled. Caesars is targeting dates sometime in the fall of 2020 for the return of the poker tournament. The company will announce the exact dates in the future. Depending on the timeline they may have to reduce the number of events for the WSOP.

Last year more than 180,000 players participated in 90 events at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. This year the annual WSOP was set to run from May 26 to July 15, 2020. The original WSOP schedule included 117 events.

Regardless of how many events could be canceled this year, WSOP will include poker’s world championship, the $10,000 buy-in Main Event championship. This is the most prestigious event and richest prize pool on the poker calendar every year.

“We are committed to running the World Series of Poker this year but need additional time to proceed on our traditional scale while prioritizing guest and staff well-being,” said Ty Stewart, executive director of the World Series of Poker.

WSOP.com still operating

Stewart continued saying “in the interim, official WSOP competitions are expected to be played online this summer, and we will soon announce details of an expanded series of tournaments to be played on WSOP.com and through a partnership with international operators, which will allow players to chase WSOP glory from their homes.”

WSOP.com is still operating so poker players can keep their skills sharp while remaining quarantined. The online poker website shares liquidity in the following states:

  • Delaware
  • New Jersey
  • Nevada

There are still more than 40 tournaments taking place in the WSOP Spring Online Championships which runs through May 3. Additionally, there are Sunday tournaments with a guaranteed prize of $100,000.

The big news of all is that the WSOP.com online bracelet events will continue as planned this summer. There will be a total of 14 online WSOP tournaments this summer. Buy-ins range in price from $400 to $10,000.

New Caesars could mean changes for WSOP

Eldorado Resorts is still in the process of closing a merger deal with Caesars Entertainment. The deal should be completed by June. Eldorado Resorts will operate the new company which will keep the name “Caesars” – without the entertainment.

While Caesars has a two-year lease to operate the Rio, the new company could decide to relocate the WSOP elsewhere in Las Vegas this year. It’s expected that Las Vegas casinos could re-open in stages. The Rio could remain shuttered for longer than other Caesars properties in Las Vegas since it’s located off the Vegas Strip and away from the other properties.

Even if Rio opens, Caesars could decide to relocate WSOP anyway. This could be an opportunity to showcase the new Caesars Forum convention center opening behind The Linq and Harrah’s. The new convention center was supposed to host the 2020 NFL Draft which was turned into a virtual event as Las Vegas shuttered all non-essential businesses for April.

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William Hill CEO Says He Anticipates Return To Normalcy In Due Time

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The US gambling industry finds itself in uncharted territory. All professional and collegiate sports are on hiatus. Every single commercial casino (and most tribal properties) around the country has closed, causing a wave of unemployed workers. When historians look back at these few months a decade from now, they will refer to it as a period of uncertainty.

But despite this dark cloud hovering over the industry, there are those, like William Hill CEO Joe Asher, who remain optimistic and anticipate a return to normalcy in due time.

In the past few months, Asher has consistently expressed his firm position that the industry will bounce back — with the divine factor being patience. In an interview with PlayUSA, he spoke on this and a number of different gaming topics.

Outlook on sports betting

“Over time, I don’t have any doubt gaming comes back to where it was. I don’t think this is a long term structural issue for the industry,” Asher said to PlayUSA. “I just think it’s going to take us a while, broadly speaking, to get back where we were just even a month ago.”

In its wake, the coronavirus pandemic has left the industry struggling to stay afloat. Some sports betting operators now allow customers to bet on things like table tennis, sumo wrestling, and esports.

At William Hill sportsbooks, there has been a shift to betting on the NFL Draft. Former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is priced at -280 with 3.5 odds to be taken in the top three. Tagoviloa is projected to be a first-round pick and has received 16% of the total number of tickets. Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert is the next highest at 7%.

When asked about all the “niche” sports and prop bets now available, Asher said they don’t move the needle from a revenue perspective, but it provides a distraction from the “doom and gloom” on television.

“Obviously, you start trying to figure out what you can come up with to let people bet on. The important thing is, we don’t make any money on this overall because the cost to offer is more than the revenue from it,” he said.

Asher said, giving customers something to wager on provides a distraction allowing people, even if briefly, to focus on something else for a change.

“I think sports betting will come back pretty strongly. When you talk about gaming, there are different aspects. I think this is going to be a tough year, at least in Las Vegas, because it’s going to be a while before you see the convention business resume and people getting on airplanes to fly out here. But I think sports betting will come back pretty quickly once the games get going again,” Asher said.

Casinos proceeding with caution

One of the burning questions industry executives, employees, and customers have been pondering is: how and when will casinos reopen to the public?

Although specifics on how and when the industry will open are not yet available, Asher said it most certainly will not be “flip the switch,” and everything is back to normal.

“Some of this will be determined by what happens with the various legislative efforts around the country. Sports will bounce back perhaps a little quicker. But right now, if you own multiple casinos in a particular market, you have to be thinking several things,” Asher said.

In his assessment, Asher said operators must determine if they should open all properties at once or should they consolidate operations in the short term. But most importantly, he said at the top of the list is how you accomplish all this safely.

“Nobody wants to be in a situation where you, your employees, or your customers, are at risk. Everybody will have to be comfortable from a safety perspective,” he said. “From the outset, I’ve been saying we have a public health crisis and a business crisis going on in the country. There is only so much you can do on the business side until you solve the public health issue. That has to be addressed first.”

It’s going to be an enormous task to ensure 649,000 gaming employees spread across 973 casinos return to work safely. It will be another to recoup the $43.5 billion in economic activity that most certainly will be lost.

“Our industry is a small portion of the economy,” Asher said. “Safety, to me, is going to drive the timing and scope of the business recovery. That continues to be paramount. You must make sure you are protecting workers who have been displaced,” he said.

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William Hill CEO Says He Anticipates Return To Normalcy In Due Time

[ad_1]

The US gambling industry finds itself in uncharted territory. All professional and collegiate sports are on hiatus. Every single commercial casino (and most tribal properties) around the country has closed, causing a wave of unemployed workers. When historians look back at these few months a decade from now, they will refer to it as a period of uncertainty.

But despite this dark cloud hovering over the industry, there are those, like William Hill CEO Joe Asher, who remain optimistic and anticipate a return to normalcy in due time.

In the past few months, Asher has consistently expressed his firm position that the industry will bounce back — with the divine factor being patience. In an interview with PlayUSA, he spoke on this and a number of different gaming topics.

Outlook on sports betting

“Over time, I don’t have any doubt gaming comes back to where it was. I don’t think this is a long term structural issue for the industry,” Asher said to PlayUSA. “I just think it’s going to take us a while, broadly speaking, to get back where we were just even a month ago.”

In its wake, the coronavirus pandemic has left the industry struggling to stay afloat. Some sports betting operators now allow customers to bet on things like table tennis, sumo wrestling, and esports.

At William Hill sportsbooks, there has been a shift to betting on the NFL Draft. Former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is priced at -280 with 3.5 odds to be taken in the top three. Tagoviloa is projected to be a first-round pick and has received 16% of the total number of tickets. Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert is the next highest at 7%.

When asked about all the “niche” sports and prop bets now available, Asher said they don’t move the needle from a revenue perspective, but it provides a distraction from the “doom and gloom” on television.

“Obviously, you start trying to figure out what you can come up with to let people bet on. The important thing is, we don’t make any money on this overall because the cost to offer is more than the revenue from it,” he said.

Asher said, giving customers something to wager on provides a distraction allowing people, even if briefly, to focus on something else for a change.

“I think sports betting will come back pretty strongly. When you talk about gaming, there are different aspects. I think this is going to be a tough year, at least in Las Vegas, because it’s going to be a while before you see the convention business resume and people getting on airplanes to fly out here. But I think sports betting will come back pretty quickly once the games get going again,” Asher said.

Casinos proceeding with caution

One of the burning questions industry executives, employees, and customers have been pondering is: how and when will casinos reopen to the public?

Although specifics on how and when the industry will open are not yet available, Asher said it most certainly will not be “flip the switch,” and everything is back to normal.

“Some of this will be determined by what happens with the various legislative efforts around the country. Sports will bounce back perhaps a little quicker. But right now, if you own multiple casinos in a particular market, you have to be thinking several things,” Asher said.

In his assessment, Asher said operators must determine if they should open all properties at once or should they consolidate operations in the short term. But most importantly, he said at the top of the list is how you accomplish all this safely.

“Nobody wants to be in a situation where you, your employees, or your customers, are at risk. Everybody will have to be comfortable from a safety perspective,” he said. “From the outset, I’ve been saying we have a public health crisis and a business crisis going on in the country. There is only so much you can do on the business side until you solve the public health issue. That has to be addressed first.”

It’s going to be an enormous task to ensure 649,000 gaming employees spread across 973 casinos return to work safely. It will be another to recoup the $43.5 billion in economic activity that most certainly will be lost.

“Our industry is a small portion of the economy,” Asher said. “Safety, to me, is going to drive the timing and scope of the business recovery. That continues to be paramount. You must make sure you are protecting workers who have been displaced,” he said.

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